The Travellers and Food Lovers Guide to Rugby League – Manchester

By Daniel Andruczyk

The last several years I have had the fortunate opportunity to live and work overseas, namely in Germany. My passion for Rugby League found me travelling all over Europe to watch the greatest game and in one case even managed to participate in a tournament. So I have decided to write blogs on my experiences, the travel, food and cities I experienced and share some photos. So first up lets start with the heartlands and Manchester.

The City

Manchester is probably my favourite city in England. Situated on the river Irwell in Northern England, it is probably best known around the world for Manchester United FC. I wont call them the Red Devils as every one knows that the original and true Red Devils are the Salford City Reds.

S5009132 The Manchester Town hall. One of the many great buildings

For me Manchester was a real surprise despite being in Rugby League Heartland it has no professional Rugby League team as such but was still full of Rugby League fans. You always seem to bump into someone that followed one of the teams from the surrounding areas like Oldham, Swinton, Broughton and Rochdale. And lets not forget the Salford City Reds who are back in Super League and although technically not Manchester are the closest Manchester has to a professional rugby league team.

Its a city that offers a lot, a pretty good night life and fairly good access via the light rail to get around the place. Like with many European cites everything is compact and in one place and so easy to get to within a short walk.

Some of the tourists attractions that I enjoyed were the Science and Technology Museum and the Manchester Museum. Also saw an amazing rendition of Macbeth in one of the theatres there (don’t remember its name sorry). There is never a place short for a bite to eat or a pint to drink either!

Where to Stay

I stayed in two hotels in my travels to Manchester. The first two trips I stayed at the Travelodge Ancoats, which is on Ancoats Rd. Its close to the centre of the city and the pubs I mentioned, that is within walking distance, maybe 600 meters or so. Anyone familiar with Travelodge’s in England know that you get some pretty good accommodation for what you pay, If I remember correctly I paid only about 40 pounds a night which was pretty good considering other hotels I looked at.

The other was the Britannia Hotel blew me away. Its a grand old historic building on Portland St which is 5 star but you if you look around you certainly can get a deal and a half. I managed to get a 30 pound/night room there in 2009 and was blown away by the luxury. I rocked up in short and T-shirt not knowing what it was like. I though I got it wrong but nope it was the right place. If you get the opportunity definitely go see this place if not to stay in just to see the old architecture and opulence!

The Travel

Getting to Manchester pretty much from anywhere is easy. Being England’s second largest population centre there is a large airport servicing flights from most of Europe. There is a major train station with trains coming from all over England as well.

I was able to fly into Manchester (depending on the day) either from Hamburg or Berlin airport. At that time was who i flew with as well as Air Berlin and I was able to fly pretty cheap about 30 Euros.

There was one occasion where I caught the train from London Euston Road to Manchester Piccadilly station. Its about a 5 hour trip and you go through some spectacular countryside. Virgin rail was who I took and they seemed to have some pretty decent prices to travel.

The Food

I basically ate in two places in Manchester. The Old Wellington Pub which is next to the big wheel in Manchester. This seems to attract many of the Rugby League fraternity when the matches are on in town and have some great local beers.

S5003298 The Old Wellington Pub full of rugby league fans before the 2007 Grand Final

There are several Wetherspoons pubs in Manchester as well. These offer good cheap food and drinks in a pretty good atmosphere. The one I tended to go to quite often was the Moon Under Water on Deansgate Rd. This also seemed to be a big Rugby League hangout when games were in town and I was able to catch up with many of the TotalRL forum posters on there and some of the RLEF people.

England tends to have a bad reputation around the world for food, and I certainly did experience that in places in my travels, but I have to say the steaks and chips in these pubs were great as well as the oysters… yes oysters… I had them in 2009 when I went to a challenge cup game, they were very very good.

Speaking of the Oysters, that trip I went and saw Leigh play Lokomotive Moskow at the Leigh Sports Village, an impressive 12,000 seat stadium they certainly now have the facilities for Super League and wish them well in their future endeavours, but there is a charming little pub, the Centurion Hotel where I got to spend a couple hours to drink beer and chew the fat all things Leigh Rugby League with the locals.

So check out these places when there, but do wonder and experiment a bit as there are many good places to dine and drink.

The Games

So what rugby League were in Manchester that compelled me to travel there 3 times… only the second biggest game of the Year of course The Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford! I had the privilege to witness two of these, the 2007 and 2008, where Leeds started their amazing run of three on the trot.

S5003307The 2007 Grand Final at Old Trafford between Leeds and St. Helens

Old Trafford is a great stadium, the home of Manchester United it is also the home of the Rugby League Grand Final. It maybe a little cramped in the seating but the views of the whole field are amazing. British Rugby League fans certainly can’t whine about that and its a square field. It’s very similar in lay out to Suncorp (the old Lang Park) in Brisbane but with the closer seating is able to hold about twenty thousand more fans.

S5003321 Action during the 2007 Grand final between Leeds and St Helens

Another game I saw was a Salford Juniors versus Western Suburbs Magpies Matthew Holt side who were touring through England. This was played at Salford’s The Willows. Now this was a sight to behold. The Willows harks back to a simpler era with the stadium surrounded by housing and apartments now and one end looks like an office block. I can see why the Red Devils want a new stadium.


The Willows, Salford City “Red Devils” Reds old home ground

S5008414Salford Juniors v. Western Suburbs Magpies U16’s (Matthew Holt)

Still it has a charm about it and I thoroughly enjoyed the match. I was able to catch up with a couple mates there and also got to meet ex-GB test player Neil Harmon.

One great game I did get to witness in 2008 was the day after the Grand final where the South African Rugby League team played Lancashire at Leigh. This was my first view of the much talked about Leigh Sports Village and have to say I was most impressed.

S5008479Lancashire v South Africa in 2008 at the LSV

The match was on one of the outer fields but still a good crowd on a nice sunny day turned out and a good time was had by everyone.

The third trip I got to make to Manchester involved catching up with another friend but also got to see a Challenge Cup match between the Leigh Centurions and Lokomotive Moskow.

S5009158 The new Leigh Sport Village (LSV) stadium, home of the Leigh Centurions

Seeing the Russian side (along with one of the French LER sides, se next blog in this series) in a Challenge Cup match was something I always wanted to do and managed to do it finally when in Europe.

S5009174Leigh Centurions v Lokomotive Moskow, Challenge cup 2009.


Manchester is a great cosmopolitan city, full of interesting people and things to do. As I said its probably my favourite city in England, coupled with the fact that so much rugby league is played around it as well as the Grand Final it makes the near perfect place to visit.

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